Some change plans to dine out over fears of new virus variant, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Some change plans to dine out over fears of new virus variant

People are cutting down on gatherings or meeting fewer people

Just a week after Covid-19 restrictions on dining at eateries were eased, news of the Omicron coronavirus variant has had consumers adjusting plans and restaurants worried.

The new strain was first detected in South Africa and has sparked global concern.

Mr Bryan Ong, 32, had planned to celebrate his parents' birthdays and wedding anniversary separately in mid-December. But on learning about the new variant, the investment counsellor told The Straits Times he has decided to hold one event to mark the occasions, "probably at a restaurant at one of the bigger hotels", within the next two weeks.

Data engineer Christine Feng, 23, had planned to catch up with friends over meals. But she may reschedule the meals and meet only two people at a time in case restrictions are tightened.

Undergraduate Arnav Guliani, 19, said his family had cancelled plans to dine out next month. They will host family friends at home or visit friends' homes instead.

Some food and beverage (F&B) establishments told ST they have yet to see any changes to reservations.

Since Nov 22, rules have been eased to allow up to five vaccinated people from different households to dine out together.

Mr Jerry Singh, chief executive of restaurant chain The Singapura Club, said: "We've sensed anxiety among our patrons when the news broke over the weekend... But there has not been an immediate knee-jerk reaction."

He also sensed fatigue among diners after the many changes in rules, especially after two months of dining restrictions.

No Signboard Holdings chairman and chief executive Sam Lim said more time is needed to gauge the impact of the Omicron variant on Singapore's dining scene.

Mr Romy Sastranegara, general manager of Rumours Beach Club on Sentosa, said: "Our reservations have been going up towards the weekend. I guess the school holidays are also helping."

F&B operators are worried that the emergence of the new variant may trigger fresh curbs.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said Singapore is watching the variant closely and may be forced to roll back the easing of safety measures.

Mr Raymond Ng, managing director of EN Group, which runs a chain of Japanese restaurants, said the new variant is a concern. "The easing of regulations to allow (up to) five people to dine (at one table) helped us a lot.

"But now with the new variant, we are worried that the rules may be tightened again."

Mr Sastranegara said he is "hoping for the best".

"Our business has been on a roller coaster since the pandemic (started). We just hope we are not going back and having to start all over again."